PORTLAND – Mario West slammed in a rebound with 15.1 seconds to play and the Maine Red Claws hung on to best rival Springfield on Sunday afternoon, 97-96.

After Maine stopped the Armor an the other end, West knocked out a handspring in celebration. The acrobatic feat came with 1.4 seconds on the clock in front of the Springfield bench and drew a technical foul.

JamesOn Curry hit the free throw, but Maine got the ball on the next possession and time expired.

“Mario apologized to me. It’s disrespectful,” said Springfield Coach Dee Brown, an NBA veteran. “This ain’t rec league. … “

The Claws, now 14-21, head into the All-Star break off one of the team’s most dramatic wins of the season.

“We made a couple of big plays down the stretch when we needed to,” said Maine Coach Austin Ainge. “To end on a win going into this break saves me some gray hairs and ulcers.”

Just seconds earlier, the winning basket developed off a drive to the basket by Tiny Gallon that bounced off the rim. West came up for the putback and slammed it in with two hands to make it 97-95.

Maine had been in the lead for much of the game until Springfield went on a 10-2 run to open the fourth quarter and pull ahead.

Gallon went on a six-point spree in the last three minutes to keep pace, scoring twice inside, drawing fouls, and turning both into three-point plays.

Maine regained the lead with just 1:16 to play, 95-94.

Former Red Claw Tony Bobbitt missed a jumper on the Armor’s next possession. Maine took the ball over but hit one off the rim.

Springfield drove back and Jerry Smith drew a foul. He hit just one of the two free throws, tying the game and leading to the winning score.

The win wrapped up a three-game series against the Armor, with Maine winning twice. Maine had 23 turnovers and hit just 26 of 43 free throws, but managed the win.

“It was sloppy. I think we all know how each other plays,” said Ainge. “We had way too many turnovers out there. But we made enough to win and come through when it mattered.”

The game was back and forth out of the gate before West went on a 6-0 run to make it 20-16 Maine with 2:56 to go in the first quarter.

He dunked, hit 2 of 2 at the free throw line, then stole the ball at half court and drove for a one-handed dunk.

Maine led 28-22 after the quarter. A couple of back-and-forth runs cut the edge to as little as one point before Maine surged to end the half.

After Jamar Smith hit a pair of free throws for a flagrant foul, he got the ball on the ensuing possession on the inbounds pass. He hit a 3-pointer with .07 seconds left on the clock to give Maine a 55-45 lead.

Smith finished with 20 points, Antonio Anderson with 14, DeShawn Sims with 13 and West with 12.

Maine is now off for the All-Star break, and returns home Feb. 24 for a game against Rio Grande at 1 p.m. 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

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